February 26, 1973 – Pershing Municipal Auditorium, Lincoln, NB

July 26, 2010

Source: Dick’s Picks Volume 28

Sound Quality/Mix: 21

Presence: 37

Peaks: 12

Technique: 9

Verse: 9

Total: 88

Soundstage: Billy is centered and spread wide–especially the cymbals (the left channel in particular).  He is at almost too high (at least the cymbals are–I don’t mind it in general; but in this case it only exacerbates the problem of Bobby and Keith being too low).  Jerry is dead center and at a good level.  Phil is also centered and at a perfect level.  Bobby is far right and way too low.  Keith is center right and a little low too.   This is the problem with two track recordings–you can’t really adjust the levels of individual instruments.  The sound itself is superb, which is no surprise;  By ’73 they had the best live sound system in the world, and this is an official release.  Overall I give it a 21.

1:00 Jerry is out of the gate quickly with this Star.  The entire band sounds tight and in sync.

2:12 Jerry switches effects, and then drops back to his normal tone.  This is  a relatively fast paced but pretty ride so far.

3:05 Jerry starts a new little run.  This is shaping up to be a somewhat light (tone not quality) Star.

3:25 We have shifted a bit… a note of two of darkness, but then that is quickly gone.

4:00 A very short lull…everyone is waiting and then Jerry starts off somewhere, slows, then picks up the pace.

4:28 Keith beautifully repeats Jerry’s runs.

5:21 Jerry begins stretching, pushing for an upper limit, disappears for a few seconds and creeps back in.

5:44 Phil starts pushing forward and with him comes the first hint at the weird.  It lasts only for a few seconds before…

6:16 Everybody syncs up and starts moving in the same direction and

6:38 Then almost on a dime we enter a glorious space where everybody is playing their own thing, and it sounds great.

7:30 Jerry, Phil and cymbals dominate, but everyone is contributing.

8:45 Things are beginning to dissolve.

9:33 And then we are completely adrift…Billy is just lightly present on the cymbals and Phil is working in and around them with Keith twinkling lightly in the background.

10:14 Phil starts repeating a little theme and then…

10:34 Jerry pops into the picture with a series of quick notes sometimes lightly dancing around sometimes stabbing at our ears.

11:06 Jerry gives us a few moaning lines and Phil starts a little rhythm going…

11:23 And everyone joins in.

12:00 Jerry steps it up a level and everyone follows.

12:47 This section is a perfect example of why Jerry’s guitar change in ’73 is so important.  In ’73 Jerry had shifted his style (at this point was shifting) from the raw energy of ’72 towards the more mature elegance of ’73 and ’74.  Wolf was a perfect guitar for this new sound.  Here we hear Jerry embracing the new sound of ’73 but playing it through the  sharper toned stratocaster that gave ’72 its wonderful edge–Wolf wouldn’t arrive for 2 months.  With this star we get to experience ’73 through a ’72 lens.

13:00 A wonderful jam.  As a group they would never sound as good as they did in ’73 and ’74: the definition of a well oiled machine.

16:22 We get the first hint of the theme which brings everyone tumbling to a somewhat awkward end to the jam–the first technical blemish so far.

17:31 Verse.  Jerry is a tad late coming in and again at “reason tatters”.  The sound and level is fantastic, and he is in good voice.  Nice accompaniment throughout; though, this is where I miss a high Keith and Bobby.

18:55 And we dive into a drum heavy space.

19:52 It is amazing how quickly they dissolve into absolute musical jelly without making it sound rushed.

21:11 We get some feedback from Jerry…certainly the first real darkness of the Star.  The darkness continues with Phil contributing big notes that live on for some time.

22:22 Jerry goes into some freaky effect that proves effective.

23:19 And then it turns metallic and uncomfortable in a good way.

24:20 Lots of Phil and feedback and the pace picks up…we are leaving space…

And then Jerry goes into Eyes of the World.  Not the best transition; in fact, it came out of the blue.  This Star feels truncated to me.  At 24 minutes there is still plenty of time to come out of that darkness and bring the listener back to earth.  To hear a seamless transition from Dark Star to Eyes check out 11-11-73.

Overall what they played in this Star is great.  Technically they are for the most part spot on and the chemistry is picture perfect.  Again, though, I wanted more…the ending was far to abrupt.

Click for a review of the entire show.

April 24, 1972 – Dusseldorf, West Germany

April 24, 2010

Source: Rockin’ the Rhein with the Grateful Dead

Sound Quality/Mix: 25

Presence: 36

Peaks: 12

Technique: 9

Verse: 8

Total: 90

Soundstage: Billy is centered and spread nicely over most of the soundstage; the cymbals in particular are nice and present.  Jerry is center left, right where I like him and nice and high.  Phil as usual is dead center and at a perfect level.  Bobby is center right and at a good level. Keith is far right and also nice and high in the mix; he doesn’t overpower but is always present.   This is a multi-track recording so the sound should be good, and it is.  By ’72 the sound system was pretty good; that combined with a 16 track recording makes this as good as it gets.  A perfect 25.

:40 Right out of the gate Jerry is leading…not overly aggressive but with full confidence.  Billy gives him great support as he opens up this Dark Star.

2:00 Keith is mixed well and this is a great example of what he could contribute.  When mixed well and combined with Bobby on the right, the two make a perfect complement to Jerry.

3:00 Things sound great and the playing is tight, but I see little sign that we are going someplace really special.

3:26 We almost abruptly slow and enter weirdness.  Too abrupt for my tastes.

4:00 Jerry starts something that leads us out of it a bit, but it feels like we are going to be in the weird for a while longer.

4:47 Bobby is making some slashing noises that travel right to left across the sound stage.  I’m curious if this is original to the mix or something added in recently when they remixed. (Update: David Lemieux confirms that it and the reverb in the verse was added in the remix).

5:41 Jerry starts playing with a little theme.  Then leaves it.

6:24 And comes back to it, this time more fully.  Things sound like a well orchestrated mess right now.  Everyone is doing there own thing, but it is working.  Still definitely weird but there is a compelling consistency to it.  This has been a nice little run.  Nothing mind blowing, but well done.

8:00 Starting to slow.

8:15 A slight hint at the theme and then it is gone.

8:50 Jerry starts moving and moving fast.  Everyone falls in and they are off.  The intensity increases rapidly.  A very nice moment, the first time I felt like we might be going somewhere especially pleasant.

9:56 But…it comes to a close way too soon for my liking, and leads into…

10:10 Theme.  Jerry is going about it slowly.  Not rushing it; he is stretching it some and then begins to take a firmer grip on the reins and…

11:20 Verse.  Again someone is playing with the effects–there is a noticeable reverb on parts of Jerry’s vocals…I like it but the purist in me is a little uncomfortable with the meddling.   Overall a fine version.  Not the best, but no mistakes.  A solid 8.

13:00 We begin disintegrating into the post verse weirdness.

14:05 Heavy bombs from Phil take us to the bottom.  A lot of discordance going on…the sound is very typical for a 1972 Dark Star.

15:20 Everybody is doing their own thing; it is a mess, but a nice mess.

15:40 We start coalescing around a Jerry led theme…everybody starts to fill in behind him and away we go.

16:30 Jerry in ’72 is at the top of his game, he is confidently leading this particular run; everyone is contributing, but he is in charge.

17:30 Slowing down.

17:45 He shifts and starts exploring another area…more spacey while still being quite discordant.

19:00 Almost sounds like he is reaching for a tiger jam but it is not coming.  Really nasty sounds coming out of his guitar at this point.

20:00 Normally Bobby is Jerry’s main backdrop, but Keith is playing that role tonight.  I correct myself…it sounds like the tiger is in the works….

20:45 And there it is.

21:30 We are into some slower discordant noodling…searching for a place to go.

22:00 We are way out there at this point…fully in space…though it is a slow contemplative space.

24:00 The pace is picking up.  There is the feeling that something new is on the horizon…knowing what is coming I wonder if  Bobby is playing with Me and My Uncle…and then the whole thing shifts and begins winding down, but it is too early to end a ’72 Star.

:01 Jerry plays the first notes and Bobby’s guitar beautifully brings us into Me and My Uncle.  The transition is sublime.  Perfectly natural as if it was standard fare.

1:00 We get a little Pigpen coming in left center.  At this point in his life, he didn’t have it in him to stay with the band for a Dark Star, but he adds a nice touch to songs like this.

3:00 A short and well played version….that quickly fades back into the second part of the Dark Star.

:12 The transition out of Me and My Uncle is not as smooth as the transition in, but it is ok.

1:00 We are clearly going to reenter the Star slowly…

1:15 Jerry sounds some exploratory notes.  It seems like folks are searching for a direction.

2:20 Jerry seems to suggest a direction, but everyone is content to keep doing their own thing.

3:30 Phil is laying down some nice notes, but we are still basically formless at this point.

4:24 Jerry starts going up high.  Phil is dropping a few big bombs.

5:00 And we get the first real attempt to pull out of space…though is sputters a bit.

There needs to be a big moment in this second part and we haven’t seen it yet.  A lot of good discordant classic ’72 weirdness, but nothing breathtaking.

6:30 Something starts to gel.

7:14 Jerry is starting to make some runs on the guitar and some cohesiveness emerges.

8:15 I wouldn’t call this a peak but it is moving in the right direction at least.

9:40 Still pushing, but never quite getting to that special spot.  The band is in sync and playing well.  This is a very good Dark Star overall…it lacks some truly mind blowing moments though.

11:55 They are hitting on all cylanders as a band right now, but its a band that is wrapping things up.  We have seen the highlights.

13:50 We are starting to transition to the next tune.  They are getting themselves into place to make the shift.

14:34 Jerry gives us a quick return to the theme before sliding into Wharf Rat.

Overall a typical 1972 Dark Star (with the exception of the Me and My Uncle interlude). Discordant…angry… aggressive.  They never reach the pinnacle that they reach in others but it is an extremely well played Star.  The intangible magic may not have been fully present, but overall this is a great effort….just not one for the ages.

Click for a review of the entire show.

February 27, 1969 – Fillmore West

March 21, 2010

Source: Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings

Sound Quality/Mix: 24

Presence: 39

Peaks: 10

Technique: 8

Verse: 8

Total: 94

Soundstage: There are a lot of folks on stage for this one so the soundstage is crowded.  The drummers are both pretty centered and centered somewhat tightly–we get some cymbal work about mid-channel on either side but that is about it–the drums don’t reach very far to either side.  Jerry is dead center and high.  Phil also is center and at a perfect level.  Bobby is center right and at a good level. TC’s swirling keyboards are far left and while they sound a little low, are probably at the right level.  Pigpen is left and a little low but that is probably a good thing.  He adds what he adds, but you don’t want too much of him.   This is a multi-track recording so the sound should be good, and it is.

This is by far the most famous Dark Star.  It is from the iconic album Live/Dead–the album that put the band on the map (or at least the area of the map between San Francisco and New York City).  If you can’t get your hands on the 10 disc Fillmore West set (its out of print, but I urge you to get your hands on it by any means necessary) the Live/Dead version certainly will suffice.  The Fillmore West set should be considered the reference choice, though, if for no other reason than it puts the Star in context…and its a great context.  Start at the beginning of disc and listen to the tragic (and timeless) tale of man’s battle against the siren call of the jellyroll.  The Mountains of the Moon that follows is gorgeous.  Use the time afforded by these two songs to get your head straight.  Find a dark room and headphones and turn it up loud.  Let the Mountains of the Moon lead you slowly into the Dark Star.  At the 4:40 mark (in MotM) you hear the last notes of Jerry’s acoustic guitar.  At 4:55 you hear the first notes of his electric, and then we go…

5:05 (MotM) Jerry introduces himself.

5:37 (MotM) Phil confirms that Dark Star is indeed dead ahead.

00:01 and we go

:42 Those first iconic notes are perfect.  I have listened to them 50-60 times and they never get old.  The sound quickly turns searing.  Jerry is on this one from the start.

1:24 Bobby is mixed great.  He is always present, again the advantage of 16 track tape.

2:00 Jerry is already hitting high spots.  He leaps right into this Dark Star.  You get the sense that pure will from Jerry, if nothing else, will make this a great Star.  Turns out there is a lot to make this a great Star.

2:19 TC is present in the left channel swirling in and out through out.  TC’s tenure with the band is short.  This is his showcase and he shines.  He wouldn’t have worked well in the 71-74 period (too baroque), but he is one of the elements that makes this period special.

2:33 Jerry doesn’t let up…a very brief rest and back to new heights.

3:17 A quick step back and then he begins stretching and reaching and reaching….he gets there and shifts course again leading…

3:45 into the theme…casually as if it just was the natural progression.

4:08 TC again peeps his head out and we appreciate it.

4:45 Verse. we get a gonggy thing from Mickey…it works for the era.  The verse is a little rushed for my taste but pretty much on.  Is that Pig in the left channel?  A decent version; 8 probably maybe a 9.

6:29 We have quickly dissolved into the weird, but it will be a short stay I think.

6:38 We get a signal from Phil to come out of it.  But Jerry almost seems to ignore him and passes right by him and creates one of the truly great peaks of all time.

8:04 After some slow down, we start something again…there is some feeling out going on…looking for a little direction.

8:42 Jerry has settled on a course and Bobby seconds (possibly too enthusiastically).

9:22 Jerry flips on the effect that always sounds like he is asking a question.

9:41 We are entering space.  Slowly, with TC playing a nice role.

10:18 More swirling TC … he contributions help turns this Star from a great Star to one of the best ever.

10:27 Something is coming … it peaks around 10:55 but doesn’t quite deliver.

11:50 Theme and I love the tone Jerry starts with.  You can tell he is taking his time with it this time.

13:25 Jerry is back in a traditional tone and seems to have a destination in mind.

14:00 Everyone gets behind him and they go.

14:45 Building….building.

15:15 TC gets his time to shine.

15:45 Things slow…not sure we reached what we could have reached….Jerry almost seems to pull up at the last moment.

16:59 Theme and they mean it this time.  Phil is especially growlly.  Well controlled aggressiveness all around.

17:43 TC helps bring things down a bit.

18:00 Jerry begins to really play with the theme now.  He is pushing hard at it, taking it up the scales.

19:00 Another great Jerry moment.  I could listen to this forever…

19:22 and he brings it to an end.  If you want a single moment that defines what the Dead could accomplish in 1969, the 18:00-19:22 moment is as good as any.

19:30 Slowing down, clearly preparing for the second verse.

20:04 Verse.  I assume that is Mickey making the weird noises behind Jerry.  Jerry nails his part.  Not great vocals in the harmony part…well by the end it isn’t too bad…

21:22 and then the slow spacey fade to St. Stephen (via some  unpleasant feedback).  The St. Stephen  is obviously worth sticking around for.

A lot has been written about this Dark Star.  I won’t waste my time adding any more.  I will just say it deserves all the accolades it receives.  The best primal era Dark Star hands down.  Overall…easily one of the top ten ever.

October 31, 1971 – Ohio Theatre – Columbus, OH

March 7, 2010

Source: Dick’s Picks 2

Sound Quality/Mix: 19

Presence: 31

Peaks: 10

Technique: 10

Verse: 9

Total: 79

Soundstage: Billy is centered and spread a little tightly for my tastes–I prefer a nice full spread.  He is mixed at a nice level, though.  Phil is centered and at a good level.  Bobby is  right center and at a good level. Jerry fills the entire left and as always is nice and high .  Keith is low, very low.  I can’t hear him.  Seriously its as if he wasn’t there.  The sound quality is good.  Overall, good sound and a weak mix (mainly for Keith but a little for Billy).  Pigpen is still officially in the band but takes a break from touring during the fall of 1971.

1:10 Pretty traditional beginning.  Everyone is in their spot doing their thing.  Jerry eventually moves in a direction and Phil and Bobby follow.  Things speed up a bit (especially Phil) but don’t really go anywhere.

2:20 Nice interplay between Jerry and Bobby….Jerry making some nice runs and Bobby supporting as usual.

2:50 Phil jumps in front (or at least up front with Jerry before pulling back).  Again, very traditional so far.

3:15 Jerry acts like he is going somewhere.  The guitar starts to scream (or at least hints at the possibility) and then….

3:55 it goes to a nice sprinkling of notes as if they were falling from above.

4:20 Theme and…

4:42 Then a diversion from it.

5:20 Jerry is picking up some intensity as he slowly plays in and out of the theme.

6:00 Jerry turns to some rapid strumming and seems to be getting his sea legs.

6:20 Jerry has officially taken on this Dark Star and the rest follow suit.

6:50 Theme all proper this time.

7:24 Verse: a perfect young Jerry rendition.  Spot on.  The band gives good if not noteworthy support.  Overall, well-played and perfectly delivered; a solid 9.

850  We pretty quickly dissolve into a downward spin by Jerry that slows down.

9:10 Then picks up and then…

9:45 turns into a nice little jam.  The first really solid cohesion from the band.  Jerry is leading the way, everybody is in on it and things turn happy, but with an edge.

10:40 Jerry hints at a little darkness and puts the brakes on before

11:11 turning up the intensity a little bit more.

11:50 Things turn pretty and slick but remain still a tad dark.

12:45 Jerry is strong throughout this Dark Star.  I am not hearing the cohesiveness that is so obvious between 72-74, but his technique is certainly present.

13:12 Something new is beginning…Phil and Jerry playing a nice little melody; gets the head moving a little.

13:50 Bobby is fully involved at this point too….another rare bit of cohesiveness.

14:03 And there goes Jerry.  Almost as if he knows the mind meld will be few and far between in this Star, he goes for it.

14:23 Perfect sheets of sound from Bobby make for a beautiful backdrop for Jerry’s notes.

15:13 And still he goes on.  71 doesn’t offer much, but it does offer a young Jerry hitting on all cylinders.  The band has not found its peak yet, but Jerry is there.

16:00 He is beginning to chase something; going up high…

17:00 After a very brief lull here he is again … pushing hard, full of confidence and vigor.  These last 5-6 minutes are the highlight of this Star.

18:31 Jerry continues on and everybody pounds behind him but you sense the slowdown coming.

19:00  And here it is…Jerry peters out and we enter…

19:39 weirdness.  Mainly Jerry and Phil.  This is a weirdness that has little shape or seeming purpose.  It’s not unpleasant, but I am not sure it is worth it.

20:40 Billy starts to drive us out … and stalls (damn).  Jerry isn’t ready yet.

21:03 And we begin to spiral down again.

22:22 Billy again and this time he is not stopped.  Jerry is melting down.

22:59 Bobby calls for Sugar Magnolia and everyone falls into place.

Overall a good Dark Star, especially for 1971.  71 doesn’t have the mind melting psychedelic feel of 69 and 70, and it doesn’t have the breathtaking cohesion of 72-74.  What it does have is Jerry at the top of his game, and a good supporting cast.

September 21, 1972 – Spectrum, Philadelphia

June 1, 2009

Source: Dick’s Picks 36

Sound Quality/Mix: 21

Presence: 39

Peaks: 15

Technique: 10

Verse: 9

Total: 94

Soundstage: Billy is spread across the stage and mixed well. Phil is centered and may be a little low for my liking. Bobby is far right and at a good level. Jerry is mixed left. Keith is low, a little muffled and centered. The sound is pretty good (not great) but the mix is lacking.

:15 Right out of the gate Jerry gives us some moan like calls from his guitar and then starts in proper like.

1:20 Everybody sounds good though Keith seems a little absent and/or low…I can’t tell the difference…On second listen I think it is low and a little muffled.

2:35 Keith is a little more present now, and we veer in a stranger direction.  The band is aggressive, almost impatient sounding; no slow build up to the verse on this night.

3:45 Jerry is off in his own world making quiet music and it sounds great.

4:15 Now he is back in ours and it sounds great.

4:50 A few hints at the theme and then off again.

6:05 Jerry is really on this night and he is getting great support from everybody.  This has potential to be a very special Dark Star.

6:20 Often I forget about Bobby…not here though.  He is staying present throughout.

7:11 More drawn out moans from Jerry and we drop into something different…a little discordance starts creeping in.

7:45 And then a new little theme that slowly melts into…

8:30 Weirdness.  Jerry creates sparks and Bobby sheets of sound.

9:50 Phil seems to be pushing elsewhere.  Not sure he succeeded in moving anyone.

10:11 And yet, somehow, we are indeed elsewhere.

10:25 This Dark Star (in general and right here specifically) is a perfect example of why Jerry needed Bobby.  Throughout, when Jerry is doing his thing Bobby always has the right backdrop at the ready.

10:35 Jerry and Keith sync up for something nice and…

11:35 Theme, and…

12:09 Verse.  Whoa…there is a strange/nice little bass beat there almost as if Phil doubled up for a second  under the “Dark” in “Dark Star crashes”.  Everything else is pretty straight forward…no flaws. A solid 9.

13:45 We dissolve into a nice space which Jerry quickly takes us out of.  Again the impatience…like he wants to get to the good stuff.

14:24 And he delivers the good stuff and Bobby is right there with him. Phil and Billy are contributing as well…I can just hear Keith…it sounds like he is pounding away but he just isn’t coming through like I would like.

16:00 Phil first and then Bobby hint at a little something, and then we get into a great jazzy jam.

17:42 And Phil comes in and says let’s go this way.

19:10 Welcome back Jerry…first time listening I never noticed he was gone until he came back…last note he played was at 16:00.  The last three minutes are proof that the Dead was more than Jerry Garcia.  The last three minutes are also a good example of how good Keith could be when you could hear him.

20:00 And this is proof that Jerry Garcia was the Dead.

20:50 Oh dear.

This is what a Dark Star from 1972 sounds like:  dark, furious, loud, aggressive, invigorating…Compare to 9-27-72 if you want an exception to prove the rule.

21:50 Easily one of the more intense Dark Stars out there.

23:50 By September of 1972 Jerry was absolutely at the peak of his powers.  He somehow sustained it for 3 years, but only in 1972 do you regularly get this Jerry–the youthful and aggressive and savage combined with pinpoint control and confidence.

25:00 We get the Tiger.

25:40 Jerry and Phil pound off of each other and then…

26:30 Phil brings us to the bottom.

27:30 We begin winding down, and everything turns beautiful…especially Keith.  Certainly sounds like the end is nigh.

28:20 Everyone seems to burst into the next tune (Compendium suggests Morning Dew but it doesn’t sound like it to me) except Jerry pulls back at the last second.  Fake left go right and everyone follows.  If it had ended there it would have been a great, great Dark Star.  But we get more.

29:55 Jerry points in a direction and Phil, Bobby and Billy lead the way…

30:58 There is a very nice smattering of notes from Bobby and then he is gone.

31:16 I have no idea what he is doing but Jerry’s tone is fantastic here.  Spooky and Spanish is what I am thinking.

31:45 And we start rolling….we have entered glorious Dead territory.

33:10 Mind Left Body Jam.  This again is Jerry at his best…this almost feels like a victory lap, like they understand what just happened.

34:50 Jerry is driving with uptempo confidence; listening to this music, you can’t help but smile…we have crossed the abyss and now we dance.

35:50 Everyone goes up high…it is winding down and…

37:00 It is done, and we get Morning Dew, and we appreciate it.

Click for a review of the entire show.

September 27, 1972 – Stanley Theatre, Jersey City

May 3, 2009

Source: Dick’s Picks 11

Sound Quality/Mix: 22

Presence: 39

Peaks: 11

Technique: 10

Verse: 8

Total: 90

Soundstage: Billy is spread across the stage and mixed well. Phil is centered and may be a little low for my liking. Bobby is far right and at a good level. Jerry is mixed left. Keith is relatively low and centered which I ain’t crazy about…I am willing to be proved wrong but I don’t thing the piano was in the middle of the stage. The sound is quite good for a two-track recording.

I may be rethinking my complaint about Keith…he sounds good in the middle. His twinkling keys are a nice balance to Phil…the problem though is the right channel is weak with just Bobby.

2:45 Something beginning…maybe and then maybe not.

4:00 All in all to this point everyone is sounding very good. Its nice…not a whole lot more than that, but everybody sounds good and that is enough.

5:07 Jerry is starting to assert and then just as quickly backs off…and then shifts gears into a…

6:05 Quick spaghetti like run…

7:00 Things are heating up some…it has been a steady climb for 30 seconds or so

7:50 And then it peters out.  There is a lot of ebb and flow so far.

8:45 Jerry has left us and everybody does their thing…no real structure right now…

9:30 Things begin to get jazzy all of a sudden. Billy works the cymbals and Bobby has a great little riff he is repeating.  I am head-bopping.

11:05 Jerry is back.

11:30 And he takes the reins…it feels like we are going someplace this time, though I have thought that a few times already.

12:15 Billy’s cymbal work is fantastic here (especially considering he is handling the drumming as well).

13:34 This Dark Star is looking forward to 1973. This is nothing like what was played in the Spring and Summer of 1972.  No anger and no edge…but plenty of pretty.

15:15 Some nice playing by Jerry…but still nothing jaw dropping.  Amazingly professional though…the band is very much in sync.

16:45 First signs of darkness start creeping in (thanks in no small part to Phil).

17:15 – 18:00 Things are steadily getting weirder but its a nice weird.  Bobby’s slashing guitar is quite pleasant.  All in all, a well-coordinated weirdness.

18:40 Bobby continues to make himself heard.

19:05 And we peel off into quiet space.

19:28 Feedback that pretty has to be intentional (from Phil).

20:00 Very slow slightly discordant mellow pleasant space…Phil is the primary here but the other guitars do enough that you appreciate them.

23:00 We move into a very sleepy weird space…and then

24:09 Theme.  I can’t recall another version that took that long to get to the pre-verse theme.  Not a lot of highlights (peaks) to this point, but I really, really enjoyed getting here.

23:38 Jerry comes into the vocals a tad awkwardly and there is a very slight scratchiness early on.  We lose the end of  “ashes” in the first line.  From “Reason tatters” on, though, Jerry is on.

26:14 No darkness coming out of the verse (again, this does not sound like 1972).  Jerry starts running.

28:33 Jerry goes really high.  He is starting something fast…Billy and Phil start picking up the pace.

29:30 Phil is pushing a new idea (knowing Cumberland is coming I imagine it sounds like Cumberland).  Jerry leads in a different way.

30:15 Phil is definitely calling for Cumberland…

30:40 and he gets it.  When they start it they start it fast…a great uptempo version followed by a knee buckling Attics of My Life.  Promised Land follows.  I am not a fan of Promised Land…but this is best version I have ever heard.

This Dark Star reminds me of 11-11-73 without the peaks.  The playing itself though qualifies as a peak in itself–it really is that good.  Nobody stands out, but everyone puts in an exceptional performance.

Click for a review of the entire show.

November 11, 1973 – Winterland

March 6, 2009

Source: Winterland 1973

Sound Quality/Mix: 23

Presence: 40

Peaks: 15

Technique: 10

Verse: 10

Total: 98

Soundstage: Billy is perfect.  Spread across the stage and mixed well. Phil is Centered and very present without being overbearing. Bobby is far left and up relatively high for him.  He has an especially nice tone this night. Jerry is pretty much centered which is ok in this case because Keith is relatively high in the mix (about as high as he ever gets mixed) to the right which balances Bobby and  keeps the stage from tilting left under the guitars.  All in all, you won’t hear a better two-track recorded mix.

We start mellow.  Phil sounds very full but, again, mellow.  Jerry’s guitar is clean but a little slow and languid (unless those are synonyms…if so then just languid).

2:30 Billy is really present.  His cymbals are unavoidable.

3:30 Meandering a bit…Phil is fiddlin’ about.

3:50 Jerry starts off somewhere and then picks up some steam but remains very controlled.

5:00 And then somehow without me noticing he is somehow back to languid flowing notes (unless those are synonyms…if so then just languid) and then he is into something slightly more discordant but still languid perhaps.

6:30 Things start getting back to normal and Phil starts really driving…Bobby picks up too.  I think Keith is having a smoke.

8:10 Bobby is starting to lay down more aggressive sheets of sound while Jerry dances around him.

9:00 Welcome back Keith.  We are witnessing the band at its cohesive best.   Well-oiled improvisation.

10:10 Slowing down a bit and Jerry starts something new…up high, faster and faster when

11:15 Phil rapidly emerges and begins shaking the entire stage.

12:30 Keith and Bobby both are really pounding away now.

13:00 The first real discord between the group begins to emerge…and it even sounds intentional….and maybe is.

14:12 Ditto.  More carefully planned discordance.  And then a sharp turn into a very slow slightly spacey place.  Doesn’t sound like the band knew Jerry was going there…but they respond and are quickly back in sync.

15:30 Phil Phil Phil and theme…

16:40 Verse.  Beautiful version made so by a  great Billy accompaniment throughout.  Jerry is spot on and Phil leads us out perfectly.

18:50 This is a space that you listen too.  Phil lords over it and Jerry and Bobby make splendidly weird noises that are just right.  I keep trying to describe this, but I think I will give up.  I will just say that Phil in 1973 is as good as Phil gets.

23:17  There are not many peaks in this Dark Star.  This is one of them and it is proof that one drummer is better than two.  Billy continues to prove that throughout the remainder of the performance.

25:24 Jerry’s tone is spooky but soothing.

26:22 If the sound they were producing didn’t sound so good, you would wonder if they were searching for a direction.  We have entered Ornette Colmen territory.  Everyone is playing their own thing and it melds perfectly.

28:45 Now things are starting to get more discordant.  Still cohesive in the same discordant way but where before it was a pleasant discordance…now we are going darker.

29:52 I love that sound Jerry is making, presumably he is just scraping his string but nobody scrapes a string like Jerry.  The weirdness is short-lived but again a very nice spacey section that also again Billy drives us out of helped mightily by Keith and Bobby.  And then Jerry pushes this Dark Star from what is already a top tier performance to arguably the best version ever performed.

31:31 Mind Left Body Jam.  Just listen.

34:00 The one thing missing up to this point was a number of very good peaks or one jaw dropping peak.  We just got the latter.

34:17 Jerry just lightly hints at Eyes of the World.  Everyone noodles a bit and then they are off on one of the all time great Eyes followed by as good a China Doll you will ever hear.  All in all, one the Dead’s finest hours.

Click for a review of the entire show.


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